Thanks, President Trump!

New Orleans     Yes, you heard me say it:  thanks, President Trump for not throwing one of those big ones at Iran and starting a war.

After a period of crazy back-and-forth with Iran, fueled by mouth-breathers like John Bolton and other hawks, Trump has been transparent that he made the decision not to pull the trigger on a retaliatory strike on Iran.  He didn’t feel that potentially killing 150 Iranians was proportionate to the fact that Iran shot down an unmanned US drone.  I’m not ashamed to say it:  good call, Mr. President!

Reading about his decision is an exercise in our own kind of personal restraint, because you can feel in each story the spin from the two-handed pundits (on one hand and on the other) and the advocacy of the stone-cold hawks for more bombs and blood versus the folks holding up warning signs.  From the reports, it seems the generals were not even unanimous.  The Defense department was run by part-timers and short-timers giving the president less than confident advice.  The Secretary of State was a maybe, saying sure strike, but the sanctions are working.

The only thing predictable was that John Bolton, former temporary UN guy under George W. Bush, then Fox fighter, and now frighteningly the National Security advisor, was as always Mr. Blood and Guts.  This guy never met a missile he didn’t love or a war he didn’t want, whether it is looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or claiming that the Iranian government is a terrorist sect.  An Iranian must have stolen his date for his high school prom or something.  He’s so unhinged about all of this that it must be personal somehow?

The President is saying he was ready to push the button and then asked one more general what the kill count might be on the Iranian side and pulled back when he heard 150 might die when we had lost no one.  Some analysts are carping about this story and trying to paint it as the usual Trump embellishment and fabrication claiming that all assessments going to the president would have included a range of fatalities.  Others are saying the 150 was on the high end of the estimate of a strike on a missile site that might have been from zero to 150.  Defenders and  apologists are saying maybe Trump just wasn’t listening earlier or paying attention?  Some are saying that Trump thought perhaps the drone downing was a mistake and something done by a rouge commander.

Who cares?  He did the right thing.  The advice was conflicting and the sources were unreliable and in this instance he had the good judgement to keep the powder dry until he was confident. Furthermore, whatever the reason or instinct might have been, Trump was also right:  this would not have been proportionate at 150 to zero.  He was also right that it might have brought us closer to war.  Let me add that would be yet another war.

Maybe it’s the thing about even a stopped clock is correct two times per day, but this call was the right one for President Trump for whatever reason, and we should thank him for doing the right thing.

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The Poignant Moments of Escorting a Soldier Home

13962608_10101820071738685_4811447333640032288_nNew Orleans   As we prepared to take off from Denver on the last leg of our flight on United Airlines, the pilot came on the intercom with an announcement that fortunately I had not heard in all my miles of air travel. He said that we were carrying an escort who was flying a solider home with us. He said that American soldiers pledge to stand between the enemies of our country and American citizens, and that we were carrying a soldier back home who had honored that pledge and made that sacrifice. He said that he would announce this again when we landed, though as it turned out it was not needed, but he asked that we would allow the escort to depart the plane first before rising to leave the plane on arrival in New Orleans.

I had seen a ramp worker walk the Air Force sergeant onto the plane before any other passengers. When we entered, he was seated on the aisle in a bank of three seats on the left side of the plane by himself in the first row that follows first class, only a couple of rows up from us. Before we departed, while the air conditioning was still coming on, I listened as the attendant approached the escort and asked if she could take his jacket. This was his uniform. He of course refused. He sat silently throughout the less than two hour flight without reading, talking, or rising from his seat. He never looked back, only forward.

Anyone who has ever flown knows that when the bell dings that the gate airway ramp has been lowered and the door is ready to open, it is a mad scramble as people get up from their seats and collect their bags, sometimes pushing forward to get a preferred place in line to leave. This was different. Looking forward there was no one rising. I turned to look towards the back of the plane, no one was standing. It wasn’t just a matter of keeping the aisle open, as the pilot had requested, which some might have done by rising and getting ready, but keeping out of the aisle. This time no one was moving, everyone was sitting silently, and waiting. Even after the escort rose and walked out of the plane there was a minute or two when no one moved still, making sure the way was clear.

Chaco and I walked up the airway ramp and into the large circular waiting area where a dozen gates departed. We stopped in front of the ticket counter near the bank of windows. We were not alone. There had been no announcement in the waiting area, but somehow people knew something was happening. There were hundreds of people standing up, standing on chairs, and watching the runway below where a black hearse was parked on the tarmac near the baggage chute. Two police cars had their lights flashing next to the hearse. Several ramp workers in orange vests were standing alongside two women, and off to the side behind them were a half-dozen blue uniformed Air Force personnel who stood straight and at attention.

The pallbearers marched towards the plane as the casket glided down the chute and took it to the hearse. The rain had begun to pour and a ramp worker walked a large umbrella over and raised it above the head of the two African-American women, perhaps a mother, a sister, a fiancé, a wife, but certainly two women who were locked in an embrace without moving from the moment the casket had left the plane with their loved one.

They had a private moment as hundreds watched in unknown silence. Some weeping. Many, me among them, with tears in our eyes. No one seemed to move until the hearse door was closed. A German couple next to us, looked at me and said, “So sad.”

We were all civilians. The public being protected. This was a tragedy. A reminder that the war and the killing go on, many thousands of miles away in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, where soldiers are lost and lives are sacrificed. For a moment we were all touched and jolted into the reality of war as this solider came home, and as we came home, and we all were welcomed into a lifetime of mourning for lives lost that had hardly begun.

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